Named for one of the industry's most revered personalities, the Les Paul Award was created in 1991 to honor individuals that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of recording technology. 

Les Paul is arguably the most important person in the music industry and, for generations, those who are part of the industry will continue to stand on his shoulders. Born in Waukesha, Wisconsin on June 9, 1915, Les Paul went on to invent the solid body electric guitar, multi-track recording, over dubbing (sound on sound) and many other recording techniques, which over time literally transformed the way music was made. In addition, Les Paul was a GRAMMY Award winning musician whose influenced such artists as Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Slash, Billie Joe Armstrong, Steve Miller, Bonnie Raitt, Slash and so many more.

Known as the “Father of Modern Music,” Les was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Inventors Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and is represented in numerous museums across the country. The Les Paul Foundation, which was created by Les before he passed, is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Les Paul with special events, grants, educational programs, promotions and partnerships that will insure his legacy lives on for centuries. The Foundation also sponsors the Les Paul Award. For more information on Les Paul, go to or

Carol Kaye

2022 Recipient:

Carol Kaye

Do you have a guess as to how many recordings Carol Kaye has played on as a studio bassist and guitarist? Some historians have estimated that Carol played on over 10,000 recordings, while others have suggested that the number is much higher. Due to poor documentation that occurred in her early career and the fact that several studios she worked at are no longer in operation, the exact number will never be known. What we all will agree on in the amazing volume of these recordings is her touch, her style, her creativity and her consistency. Carol was a pioneer, first as a professional jazz guitarist, and then in 1957, she began working in recording studios with mostly men for many years. Carol switched to bass in 1963 when a fellow musician failed to show up for a recording session. Soon she was setting the bass line, often creating her own, and fueling creativity in the sessions. Her work with Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, Lalo Schifrin, Frank Zappa, and Quincy Jones (to name but a few) will forever serve as inspiration for musicians on every instrument.

Her method books, such as How To Play The Electric Bass, have been cited dozens of times by current studio musicians as their main source of instruction and encouragement! Her giving spirit has nurtured countless musicians with music lessons, which often were peppered with life lessons and professional advice such as getting to the studio on time and always being prepared. And if we were to discuss her contributions to recorded music, it would take up the rest of this program book, yet let me list a few. Carol Kaye played on Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman,” The Beach Boy’s “Good Vibrations,” Sam Cooke’s “Summertime,” Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright,” the Monkees “I’m A Believer,” as well the themes to Mission Impossible, Shaft, and all of Quincy Jones’ movies in the 1960s and 70s.

Recognizing Carol with the 2022 Les Paul Innovation Award is a perfect fit. Like Les, Carol is a pioneer and the two knew each other. They first met in 1951 when she was taking lessons with Horace Hatchett, a sought-after instructor who was close friends with Les. Carol recalls a few conversations with the two men discussing soundon-sound as well as the day Les handed her one of his guitars for her to demonstrate as she sat in the store window of Fife & Nichols Music in Los Angeles. Carol and Les later joked while on stage jamming together, such as the time Les tried to de-tune Carol’s bass, and the night she jokingly asked him to marry her, which rendered the witty guitar hero speechless.

Carol has staying power and a groove that just won’t quit. Isn’t it a blessing to be in this room with her tonight, and to be given the chance to thank her for all she had done for music and all she has done for us?!

Joni Mitchell

2020 Recipient:

Joni Mitchell

Joni's most commercially successful LP, "Court and Spark" [1974] was created with the jazz-fusion group The LA Express. "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" [1975] steered her away from traditional pop forms into formats of complex lyrics and melodies, accompanied by a variety of jazz musicians. Her album "Hejira" [1976] shed much of the instrumentation creating a minimalist recording with an expansive ambience achieved with the help of her sound engineer, Henry Lewy, by overdubbing Joni's electric rhythm guitar. In 1978 one of jazz's great geniuses, Charles Mingus approached Joni to propose a collaboration. The result was "Mingus" [1979], released shortly after Mingus's untimely death from ALS.

"Dog Eat Dog" [1985] featured Joni's exploration of sociopolitical themes set to complex synthesizer arrangements. In the 1990s, her acoustic guitar playing came back to the forefront and produced the Grammy-winning "Turbulent Indigo" [1994]. She has also recorded an orchestral retrospective, "Travelogue" [2002], two live recordings, "Miles of Aisles" [1974] and "Shadows and Light" [1980], and an orchestrated collection of popular music standards, "Both Sides Now" [2000]. In 2007, the Alberta Ballet Company staged the ballet "The Fiddle and the Drum," choreographed to a collection of Joni Mitchell's recordings. Her last recording of new material was "Shine" [2007]. 

Although Joni’s sophisticated music rarely topped the pop charts ("Help Me" reached #7 in 1974), many of her songs have become classics. "River," "Big Yellow Taxi," and "A Case of You" are instantly recognizable. "Woodstock" has become the anthem of the 60’s counter-culture movement, and "Both Sides Now" has been recorded more than 1250 times by other artists. 

Three Junos, nine Grammys (plus their Lifetime Achievement Award), the Governor General's Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a Polar Music Prize are but a few of Joni’s awards and accolades. 

Peter Frampton

2019 Recipient:

Peter Frampton

Frampton is one of music’s renaissance men, having begun a career in his early teens, and still making his mark today in the areas of recording and touring. A multi-platinum-selling artist, he recently celebrated the 42nd anniversary of his fifth solo album, Frampton Comes Alive!, an album that remains one of the top-selling live records of all time with over 17 million copies sold worldwide. In 2007 he won the GRAMMY award for “Best Pop Instrumental Album” for Fingerprintsand in 2014 was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame.

His session work includes collaborations with artists who have made their mark on the industry including George Harrison, Harry Nilsson, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Entwistle, Mike McCready, and Matt Cameron (Pearl Jam), among many others.

Frampton’s talent has also stretched beyond music and into the realm of television and film. He was called upon by Oscar-winning writer/director Cameron Crowe to serve as technical advisor for the film Almost Famous (2000) and even appeared in the film and composed several songs for the soundtrack. Frampton has appeared as himself in The Simpsons and Family Guy.

Jackson Browne

2018 Recipient:

Jackson Browne

Browne has written and performed some of the most iconic and moving songs in popular music and has defined a genre of songwriting charged with honesty, emotion and personal politics. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007. His debut album came out on David Geffen's Asylum Records in 1972. Since then, he has released fourteen studio albums and four collections of live performances, and has sold over 18 million albums in the U.S. Browne will be on tour in the spring of 2018.

Joe Perry

2017 Recipient:

Joe Perry

Iconic artist Joe Perry is included in Rolling Stone’s list of “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” A long-standing co-founding member of a Aerosmith, a group whose music repertoire spans four decades, Perry’s versatile musicianship and influence has helped pave the way to a long list of accolades that reach beyond the band’s more than 150 million albums sold.

In the role of principal songwriter, lead guitarist, and as producer for multiple tracks featured on several notable Aerosmith albums, Perry’s talent has helped contribute to the super group’s four Grammy® Awards, (one of which includes Perry’s guitar-based instrumental “Boogie Man”); six Billboard Music Awards; twelve MTV Video Awards; and two People’s Choice Awards, to name a few. Hollywood also became a part of Perry’s musical resume when his familiar riffs were heard on the band’s hit song “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” (from the soundtrack to “Armageddon”), which received an Oscar® nomination for Best Song. Among many other TV and film projects, Perry also composed the theme song for the “Spiderman” animated TV series and provided the instrumental music for “This Thing of Ours,” starring James Caan. 

In addition to Aerosmith, Perry is also a lead player in the band Hollywood Vampires, an American rock super group he formed in 2015 with Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp to honor the music of the rock stars from the 1970s. The industry collectively looks forward to seeing him accept this honor, and perform at the Annual NAMM TEC Awards Ceremony January 21, 2017.

Don Was

2016 Recipient:

Don Was

Don Was is one of music’s most significant artists and executives, excelling in multiple roles and serving as one of the industry’s beacons for integrity and forward-thinking. During this period of disruption and rapid evolution in the worldwide music business, Was remains committed to music as an art form and its importance to contemporary culture. As the President of Blue Note Records since 2011, Was is both the company’s leader and an ambassador for its music, charged with bringing the label’s 21st Century jazz artists and its expanding palette of contemporary musicians to larger audiences.  Was is also caretaker for Blue Note’s singular and historic catalogue of music, and is burnishing the label’s 75-year legacy by overseeing ongoing and extensive reissue campaigns that serve audiences in both the analogue and digital realms.

As an in-demand, highly acclaimed and commercially successful producer since the late 1980s, Was has been honored with Grammy Awards for his production work in each of the past three decades:  In 1989 for producing Bonnie Raitt’s breakthrough classic Nick Of Time, in 1994 as Producer Of The Year for his work with artists ranging from The Rolling Stones to Willie Nelson to Roy Orbison, and in 2009 for his production work on Ziggy Marley’s Best Musical Album For Children, Family Time. He was recently awarded his first Emmy as musical director for the CBS Television special, The Beatles: The Night That Changed America, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the group’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. Twenty years earlier, Was explored The Beatles’ musical beginnings in the film Backbeat, for which he was awarded a BAFTA in 1995 for Best Film Music.

Was first became known to music audiences as founding member of Was (Not Was), which he formed with childhood friend David Was (Weiss) in suburban Detroit.  Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the band released four studio albums of their unique blend of soul, funk, R&B, rock and dance music combined with satiric and unusual lyrics.


2015 Recipient:


A man of many talents, Slash has amassed album sales of more than 100 million copies, garnered a GRAMMY® Award and seven GRAMMY® nominations, and is an inductee of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As Guns N’ Roses’ lead guitarist, Slash helped to create signature guitar riffs on their #1 hits. After leaving the band, he went on to critical acclaim with Slash’s Snakepit and achieved global success with the super-group Velvet Revolver.

Todd Rundgren

2014 Recipient:


A personification of creative musical experimentation and mastery, Todd Rundgren often performed multiple tasks on his solo albums—writing, playing, singing, engineering, producing and distributing—and has been a pioneer of interactive and online distribution. Between his solo work and his creative output with his progressive band, Utopia, Rundgren has released more than 25 critically acclaimed albums.

Pete Townshend

2013 Recipient:


Pete Townshend has enjoyed one of the most intriguing, respected and multifaceted careers of any artist in the rock and roll era. The outline of his life in music is well-known. As the leader/guitarist/main songwriter for The Who for close to five decades now (with a few breaks), he has produced songs and albums that will endure long beyond our own lifetimes. Townshend has also made a number of excellent solo albums since the early ’70s, affirming that in addition to being an incredible guitarist, he is also a nuanced, emotive singer and a multi-instrumentalist.

Steve Vai

2012 Recipient:


Steve Vai began his professional music career at eighteen, transcribing scores for Frank Zappa. He then recorded and toured with Zappa for three years before launching his solo career. With his groundbreaking multi-platinum album Passion and Warfare in 1990, and throughout the years since, the brilliance of Vai’s musicianship has awed fans of all genres. With career sales of over 15 million records, 15 GRAMMY® nominations, and 3 GRAMMY® wins, Vai is the laureate of countless awards for his innovative style and artistic contributions.

Lindsey Buckingham

2011 Recipient:


Singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Lindsey Buckingham's career began to take off when he and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac’s core lineup of drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and keyboardist/singer Christine McVie in early 1974. In the early ’80s, Buckingham launched his solo career and has continued to flourish.

Learn more about these and other past Les Paul Award recipients by visiting the TEC Legacy site at